(The hurricane over land like signature that has become all-too-common during recent years as the Earth has continued to warm is plainly visible over the Kashmir region on September 5 of 2014. A multi-day flooding event that is now the worst for this Central Asian state in more than 60 years. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)
On Tuesday, a bank of thunderstorms fed by an atmospheric river of moisture off the Arabian Sea exploded into a mountain of cloud over Kashmir in Central Asia. The rains swept in and continued through Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. A terrible flooding rain that has now killed 160 people, forced the evacuation of 2,500 villages and buried more than 450 villages under waters rising high enough to cover the hills.
River flooding has been so intense that flood level gauges have simply been buried, with towns and cities throughout the region facing catastrophic damage. In Srinagar, a Kashmiri city of 1.2 million souls, the situation today was dire. Union Minister Ragnath Singe, visited the scene earlier today but had to cancel an aerial tour due to ongoing severe weather keeping flights grounded:
“If there is so much devastation in the city, I wonder what would be the situation like in rural areas. I want to assure the people and the government of Jammu and Kashmir that the central government stands beside you in your hour of crisis and we extend all necessary help to you,” Singe noted.
The flood toll now includes more than 50 bridges, hundreds of kilometers of roads, and the loss of numerous power plants and sub stations due to inundation. Vast destruction of food crops is also underway, though with the rains still ongoing it is impossible to provide a full tally.
Minister Singe, amid assurances of full-scale mobilization to aid disaster victims and prevent loss of life has made a plea for 25,000 tents and 40,000 blankets to help provide shelter and care for the swelling ranks of refugees from this ongoing catastrophe.
Conditions in Context
(Reported instances of extreme weather since 1988. Image source: University of Nottingham.)
Human-caused climate change greatly amplifies the conditions that lead to more intense rainfall and flooding events. For each 1 degree Celsius of temperature increase, the hydrological cycle intensifies by 8 percent. So evaporation events and rainfall events grow ever more intense as the world warms.
Though storms, on aggregate, dump 8 percent more rain, and evaporation sucks 8 percent more moisture up from the lands and ground, the uneven nature of weather results in a powerful amplification of extreme events. So what you end up with is both far more powerful severe storm systems and far more intense and rapidly asserting drought conditions.
We see these increasingly more dangerous events now at 0.85 C warming above the 1880s average. And we have locked in about 1.9 C warming this century and 3.8 C long-term warming due to the gasses we’ve already emitted. But continued fossil fuel burning will make the situation considerably worse.
Hat-tip to Colorado Bob